Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
4 Way Street, 1971
Neil Young

This song was written in response to the tragic events of May, 4, 1970 when four students were killed and nine wounded during an antiwar protest on the campus Kent State University.

"By noon May 4, two thousand people had gathered in the vicinity of the commons. Many knew that the rally had been banned. Others, especially commuters, did not know of this prohibition. Chants, curses and rocks answered an order to disperse. Shortly after noon, tear gas canisters were fired...The guard moved forward with fixed bayonets, forcing demonstrators to retreat...The guardsmen then retraced their line of march. Some demonstrators followed as close as 20 yards, but most were between 60 and 75 yards behind the guard. Near the crest of Blanket Hill, the guard turned and 28 guardsmen fired between 61 and 67 shots in 13 seconds toward the parking lot. Four persons lay dying and nine wounded. The closest casualty was 20 yards and the farthest was almost 250 yards away. All 13 were students at Kent State University.

The four students who were killed were Jeffrey Miller, Allison Krause, William Schroeder and Sandra Scheuer. The nine wounded students were Joseph Lewis, John Cleary, Thomas Grace, Alan Canfora, Dean Kahler, Douglas Wrentmore, James Russell, Robert Stamps, and Donald MacKenzie. Dean Kahler was permanently paralyzed from his injury."

David Crosby discussed the tragedy in a 1977 interview, "I think we react just as you do. When you saw the picture of the girl kneeling over the kid dead on the ground after Kent State, you were horrified, right? You said, how can they shoot somebody's child for doing what the Constitution says they have the right to do? How can they do that? How can this happen? Well, we feel the same way..."

The liner notes to Neil Young's 1977 Decade album state, "It's still hard to believe I had to write this song. It's ironic that I capitalized on the death of these American students. Probably the most important lesson ever learned at an American place of learning. David Crosby cried after this take."

P.F. Sloan’s 1965 ant-war anthem, Eve of Destruction played a key role in later efforts to amend the U.S. Constitution. The line in the song, ... You’re old enough to kill, but not for votin’ was a catalyst for the movement to change the voting age in America from 21 to 18 which was achieved with the adoption of the 26th Amendment in 1971. In 1999, Sloan explained the origin of the song and the mixed response it received, “...The song contained a number of issues that were unbearable for me at the time. I wrote it as a prayer to God for an answer... The media frenzy over the song tore me up and seemed to tear the country apart. I was an enemy of the people to some and a hero to others... I have felt it was a love song and written as a prayer because, to cure an ill you need to know what is sick... The media headlined the song as everything that is wrong with the youth culture... The media claimed that the song would frighten little children... I told the press it was a love song. A love song to and for humanity, that's all. It ruined Barry's career as an artist and in a year I would be driven out of the music business too...”

Singer/Songwriter Arlo Guthrie’s 1967 Vietnam War Draft protest song Alice’s Restaurant was inspired by actual events taking place on Thanksgiving day, 1965. “Alice was restaurant owner Alice Brock, who in 1964, using $2,000 supplied by her mother, bought a deconsecrated church in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, where Alice and her husband Ray would live. It was here rather than at the restaurant, which came later, where the song's Thanksgiving dinners were actually held. On that Thanksgiving, Nov. 28, 1965, the 18-year-old Guthrie and his friend Richard Robbins, 19, were hauled into jail for illegally dumping some of Alice's garbage after discovering that the dump was closed for Thanksgiving.” (see also reference below)

Graham Nash's 1971 song Chicago was inspired by the the protests at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago and the subsequent trial of protestors known as the "Chicago Seven". An eighth defendent , Bobby Seale, was tried seperately. The song opens with a direct reference to the court ordered restraint of Bobby Seale during his trial, So your brother's bound and gagged And they've chained him to a chair...In a land that's known as Freedom How can such a thing be fair...

In a 2000 interview David Crosby discussed the collective role or responsibility of musicians and the trial's impact, "You know, our main job is to entertain, but there's also another part which is to be the town crier, to be the troubadour, to be the guy that says, 'Twelve o'clock and all is well,' or, 'It's 11:30, and it's not so darn good.'...and he [Nash] felt strongly that that was a travesty of American justice, and it was.It was a complete travesty. You can't chain a man to a chair and gag him and say that you're having a free trial. It doesn't work that way..."

Before Guthrie and CSNY there was Buffalo Springfield which included Stephen Stills and Neil Young. Their 1966 anthem, For What It's Worth, has come to symbolize the rebellion, restlessness and turbulence of the Sixties. This song was inspired by the Sunset Strip Riots, a series of confrontations between young people and the Los Angeles Police Department. Stephen Stills recalled in a 1995 interview, "...Well, see, the L.A.P.D...They decided to run a lineup across the street, like there was some kind of a revolution going on or something...There was no big political point to it. There was no nothing to it. It was just a bunch of kids having a party. And okay, they wanted it to break up...But they laid into them like it's some big act like it's Kent State or something, which hadn't even happened yet. More reason not to do it...Being twenty-two or something, of course, I wrote a very serious song about it. [Laughs]"

In 1998 the group Public Enemy released, He Got Game a rap song that sampled lyrics and music directly from For What It's Worth. Stephen Stills appears and performs in the music video for this song which expands on the message of rebellion and resistence for a new generation of listeners. Public Enemy founder, Chuck D explained in a Rolling Stone interview, "I think we've come up with a relevant upgrade of Buffalo Springfield's For What It's Worth on He Got Game. If you're going to touch a classic, bring it up and make it move and make it mean something new or make it mean something stronger than when it was first said..."


"May 4 Chronology", May 4 Collection Kent State University Libraries and Media Services,   Department of Special Collections and Archives.

"Something Happening Here: Chuck D. puts all the hype and noise into perspective" (Rolling Stone website) shutemdown.com

"Interview with Stephen Stills and Neil Young." Conducted by L.A. Johnson. September 15, 1995 Broken Arrow Ranch, California.

"Speaking Freely" David Crosby Interview. August 2, 2000 First Amendment Center.

“Alice’s Restaurant” – Wikipedia

P.F. Sloan – Stories Behind the Songs Copyright: PF Sloan 1999.02.19

Music and Lyric Resources:

CSNY Official Site

Neil's Garage

HyperRust Never Sleeps...

David Crosby and CPR



Public Enemy Official Site


P.F. Sloan

Barry McGuire

HighTone Records – P.F. Sloan

Referenced and Related Works:

Henry David Thoreau's; "Civil Disobedience"

John Filo Photograph

First Amendment

Liberty Quotes

Protest and Dissent Quotes

Kent State Memorial

Kent State Remembered

Quotes About Conflict and War

Alice’s Restaurant

Eve of Destruction

Vietnam War Quotes

Abbie Hoffman Quotes

William Kunstler Interview

The child is father to the man / He Got Game / The Rainbow

Constructed Response Activity

Alan Canfora (external page)

Bobby Seale.com ( external page )

William Moses Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice ( external page )

Famous American Trials "The Chicago Seven" ( external page )

NPR: PF Sloan’s Long Road Back from ‘Destruction’ ( external page )

YouTube - “Eve of Destruction” ( external page )

YouTube - “Alice’s Restaurant” ( external page )

YouTube - “For What It’s Worth” ( external page )

You Tube – “He Got Game” ( external page )


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